Saturday, February 24, 2024

2023 Arnold Palmer Invitational Picks, Odds: Bet Justin Thomas at Bay Hill

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The Florida swing is always a wild ride, and we saw that on full display last week. Chris Kirk had a one-shot lead heading into the final hole but got a little too aggressive with his line on his second shot and found the water.

Eric Cole had a golden opportunity to win his first PGA TOUR event but couldn’t get up and down green-side on the final hole in regulation or in the playoff hole. Kirk ultimately won in the playoff thanks to a tremendous approach shot that he hit within a foot. It wasn’t the best of fields, but it ended up being a great tournament.

This week we have the third designated event of the season, which means all of the big names will be teeing it up. There will only be 120 golfers in the field, which means a higher percentage of the field will end up making the cut. For that reason, I have included a make the cut parlay in the picks this week, but we’ll get to that here in a bit.

First, let’s talk about Bay Hill Club & Lodge. The course is a par-72 that measures 7,466 yards. Despite having four par fives on the scorecard, this is one of the toughest courses on the PGA TOUR. It has ranked in the top nine in difficulty each of the last four years, and we’ve seen two winners in single-digits under par during that stretch. With 20+ MPH winds in the forecast for most of the week, Bay Hill is going to be an extremely tough test of golf.

Like all Florida courses, there are hazards all over the course waiting to swallow golf balls. Water is in play on half of the holes and will spell trouble for errant tee shots and errant approach shots. There’s really not a strong course fit this week, as golfers will be tested in all facets of their game. I am personally looking for golfers who are solid all around, have experience in Florida, excel on Bermuda greens and play well on difficult courses.

Easy enough, right?

Outright Bets: 

Justin Thomas +2500 (DraftKings)

Everyone loves seeing the betting trends each week, but I’ve always been a believer that trends are only trends until they are broken. I don’t mind that JT has only played this course once because he lives in Florida and has won twice in the Sunshine State. He won the Honda Classic and THE PLAYERS Championship.

He’s arguably the best shot maker on TOUR, which should really come in handy in these windy conditions. He’s great with his long irons and is a magician around the greens. If the putter cooperates, I like his chances to be in the mix on Sunday.

Sungjae Im +4600 (FanDuel)

For the record, I have also bet Jason Day this week, but figured I would write up Sungjae Im since he has significantly better odds. He was a let-down at the Honda Classic last week, but that’s largely because he lost three strokes putting.

I’m willing to let one mediocre performance go, especially since it has led to much better odds than expected. Im doesn’t have a weakness in his game, he plays well in the wind, and he has a strong track record on difficult courses. He’s a perfect 4-for-4 at this event with two third-place finishes.


Arnold Palmer Invitational Parlays:

Top-40 Parlay: Matt Fitzpatrick, Rickie Fowler, Davis Riley +916 (FanDuel)

I was originally planning to bet all of these individually, but the payout for the parlay was too enticing to pass up. Matt Fitzpatrick hasn’t been in the best of form, but he’s on the record saying that he prefers firm and fast courses that are difficult. Bay Hill fits the bill, and I should note that he’s posted four straight top 15s here.

Rickie Fowler is finally playing good golf again and has gained 15 strokes on approach his last three starts. He plays this event every year and should continue his solid form. Davis Riley is more of a wildcard, but I love betting him anytime he’s in Florida. He nearly won the Valspar last year and played well at the Honda Classic last week, finishing T29 while gaining 6.2 strokes ball striking.

Make the Cut Parlay: Corey Conners, Keegan Bradley, Sungjae Im, Tommy Fleetwood, Aaron Wise +366 (FanDuel)

Given that a large percentage of the field is going to stick around to play the weekend, this is one of the better events for a made cut parlay. Corey Conners has made 80% of his cuts over the last 14 months and has back-to-back top 15s at this event.

Keegan Bradley has made 10 straight cuts at this event. I like Sungjae Im for all of the reasons mentioned above. Tommy Fleetwood has gained more strokes per round in Florida than other golfer in this field over the last five years. And finally, Aaron Wise has been very consistent over the last year of play and has made three of his last four cuts at this event.

Good luck this week!

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